At Rx Communications we have recently been developing proposals for a number of literature review projects – including one where an original review and analysis required updating before publication, and others that were designed to find answers to fairly obscure or unusual questions. We find, at the start of the year, many of our clients looking for vendors for these types of projects, and so we thought it might be useful to share our experiences. Rx has been performing literature searches and reviews since the company began; we are one of the few boutique medical communication agencies to have a dedicated information manager who specialises in this work. With all the literature benchmarking, systematic and comprehensive reviews we have undertaken over the years, we have developed a useful 4-step thought process that helps ensure our clients get the results they want. Here’s hoping they get you the results you want too.


Step One – Decide what the question REALLY is.

Although this seems fairly obvious, it is often the make or break point of success, and we find that clients often haven’t thought through what it is they really want. This can make a tremendous difference to the size and complexity of the project: for example – is this research going to inform future drug or device developments or in-licencing opportunities? With a large future investment riding on the results of the search, you would do well to spend a little more on the literature search and analysis to ensure that your future investments will be well spent.  Is this search (for example, of study methodologies) going to inform the way future clinical trials will be conducted, or perhaps establish the basis for an HTA submission? In this case inclusion and exclusion criteria need to be very clearly defined so that only the most robust data are collected. Are you looking to publish the results as a foundation or background to your own development research?  It must be very clear that data have not been ’cherry picked‘, and that the search has not been skewed to omit unfavourable results or a competitor’s pivotal study.

On the other hand, you don’t want to end up analysing every single citation that may be identified in a comprehensive search, if all you want to know is the most common study approach taken to determine the parameter you are interested in. Part of deciding what the question is, is the issue of budget – do you need to know absolutely everything about your chosen question, or is a general indication sufficient?

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